It was brought to my attention that many people probably do not know what PTSD or GAD look like. They are unaware of the side effects they cause a person. I know symptoms vary person to person (doesn't it always vary person to person no matter what the situation?) but I thought I'd share how they effect me and what it may look well, though I am great at hiding it (which is why many are surprised when I mention I have it) .
For me it starts with the thoughts. The thoughts that something horrific is going to happen to the people I love, which makes it very hard to leave them or not be around them. Thoughts such as, if I leave Phoebe at a day care center some person may come in and kill her, or even worse, they won't be watching her for a second and she will get hurt. She could get so hurt that she would never be the same. It could cause permanent damage to my sweet little girl. Or even, if we get in the car and travel on the highway, we are going to get in a big accident and die. Maybe I'll just die, leaving Stephen and Bee. Maybe Stephen will die, leaving Bee and I or even worse, maybe Stephen and I will die, leaving Bee by herself. There's also the thoughts that someone will follow us home , break in and kill us, or that due to "natural causes" Stephen and I will die during the night and Bee will be left alone for who knows how long before someone figures it out and perhaps so long that she may cry so much, choke and die herself. Not thoughts you want to think of but when you've already had two of your children die, your mind goes there.
There's also chest pains. I describe it as if I feel like I'm having a heart attack. I mean truly it feels like I'm having a heart attack (well what I imagine it feels like). My chest twinges with pain, inexplicable amounts of pain. It's scary. It radiates down my arm and into my mind. I google the symptoms of a heart attack on a weekly basis. I just need to know that I'm indeed not having a heart attack but rather a panic attack which gives you some of the same symptoms.
I also sweat like a pig (actually, do pigs even really sweat?) I constantly feel warm, even sitting in a cool bath cannot cool me down. I still have yet to find a deodorant that can withhold my stink from sweating. I go through 2 or even 3 sets of clothes some days because I sweat so much. My hands get all clammy and just ooze sweat. I leave sweat prints where ever I go or on what ever I tough. I sleep in barely anything at night because I feel so warm. I try to wear as little clothing as I can during the day because I feel so warm.
My heart has also been known to race. It gets beating so fast that sometimes when all I am doing is sitting still, it's like I've ran for over an hour. It literally feels like my heart is going to beat out of my chest. Once at the doctors office after sitting and waiting for 30 minutes, my heart rate was 160...from just sitting. I think the adrenaline from my stress gets my wee little heart going. I know that no matter what I do, I have to be healthy because lord knows how much of a beating my heart takes from stress.
Sometimes I also get really dizzy, to the point I have to sit down and really focus on my breathing. Sometimes I catch myself running into things or holding onto objects so I don't pass out.
One of the worst symptoms is the nausea. Everyday of my life I feel sick. Some days it's so bad I can't eat. Most of the time I don't really have an appetite and have to force myself to eat. Lately it has gotten so bad that I've had to take some gravol. I will admit, since I cut out red meat at least the stomach pain has gone away but the nausea is still there most days. I eat crackers a lot and drink ginger ale/peppermint tea most days because as of right now, the nausea is for front in my stomach at most times.
Then there are the headaches. I get about one or two a week and nothing has really helped much yet. Though I recently tried peppermint oil and it seemed to work so we'll see if it keeps up. The headaches happen starting in the morning and last all day. Nothing eases the pain and the days are so very long. The pain is constant, it feels like my head is going to explode. It makes it hard to be a mom on days when I have headaches.
Another bad side effect is the exhaustion. I have no energy and I mean NO energy. It takes so much to do even simple things. I try to get out for a walk daily but its hard. It's hard to do anything. Even sitting I find myself tired. I know a lot of this issue could be related to Bee's night wakings as well, but even when we've had a decent night, I'm still tired! The exhaustion causes me to feel like I am in a constant state of fog. It's hard to describe, it's almost like I'm not really awake, everything is a dream because my mental state is so sleepy and unaware.
Speaking of mental state, the forgetfulness is sometimes really bad! However, I will say, no matter how tired, how out of it, how sleepy I am, I NEVER forget Bee. Girl makes it hard with her daily vocal practice but even then, I'm always talking to her, I am consumed in her I never forget her or anything to do with her. She is my focus, she is all that matters. That leaves other things to be forgotten. It's a running joke in our house to say we have the cleanest laundry machine because there have been many occasions I have forgotten to add the clothes to the washer and it runs for a cycle or two. This has happened many times. I've even run the dishwasher twice with no dishes. I also have a hard time remembering appointments but my handy dandy little planner helps me remember things.
I think it's more my anxiety but I have the inability to do more than one thing a day. Seriously, if it's laundry day Bee and I simply cannot go anywhere (other than our daily walk and even then, that's hard) If we have to run out and do errands that's all we can do, then we have to come home and be home bodies. If I'm going to see someone, that's all we can do and home again to be homebodies. I cannot do more than one thing a day. I get incredibly exhausted, it's a lot of work to do one thing a day when you are already so tired and so out of it and so anxious about everything. This makes me a horrible person to make plans with because it may be a week before I have a free day with nothing planned before I can get out. However, I will say, I am getting slightly better at this. For example, today I ran errands and did one load of laundry. That is a HUGE accomplishment for me. I multi-task really well around the house but when throw in having to run errands or go see people, it's a disaster! I need to plan, I can only plan one thing a day for me to survive.
And the last thing I can think of right now is the inability to leave Bee with anyone. Though, I feel confident leaving her with my husband and mom, but thats the extent. I don't know if its that I have trust issues or it's just PTSD from what happened with Jacob (being left with the doctors who I have no idea what they did) but leaving Bee with someone makes me ill. I'm sure you all remember the YMCA incident. Need I remind you I get physically ill, I cry, I vomit, I shake when I have to leave her with someone, or I should say the thought of leaving her because I have yet to do it. For one thing, I don't care to be away from her. My life isn't all about me, it's about her and yes there are times where I get out by myself to do something I need to or want to and my hubby watches her, or my hubby and I get out for a date when my mom comes to visit and to me that's the only time I need away from her. When you have your dreams shattered twice, when you've been struck by lightning twice, when you've worked so hard, so unbelievably hard to accomplish something (getting Bee here) its nice to sit and wallow in the enjoyment and happiness it brings to your life. There's no reason to run away from it. I cherish every moment I am given with Bee. I know it will fly by so I want to enjoy every minute I possibly can and I truly mean that. I don't want to ship her off to someone else or send to her a bunch of different programs. The best place for her is at home, or out, with her parents, learning through them what the world holds. I know there will come a day when we leave her, but it won't be for awhile. It's going to take huge amounts of effort on my part to even wrap my hear around the idea of me being okay with it.
So thats a day in my life, exhausting isn't it? And people wonder why I don't do much and why I take it easy. It's not easy for me. Life is not easy and on top of that all, I have an 8 month old at home , as if she doesn't keep me on my toes enough. So I ask, please have patience with me. Know that I go through all of these symptoms almost every single day, they are constant and though I am working on things, it will take time. This has been going on for 3 years, every single day for the last 3 years I have lived like this and it's going to take just as long to fix things. I know there are things I am forgetting (one of the side effects) but I just wanted people to know what goes on inside my mind and body when it comes to living with PTSD on a daily basis.